UPDATE: E. Feliciana fire investigation ruled arson-suicide

ETHEL, LA (WAFB) - After a week-long investigation of the residential structure fire that claimed a man's life on March 18, East Feliciana Parish Sheriff's Office and the Louisiana State Fire Marshal's Office have ruled the fire to have been intentionally set as part of a suicide plot.

The fire was originally reported around 6:30 a.m. at 9811 Battle Rd. in Ethel. The cause of the fire and the man's death, which were both unknown at the time of the report, have since been determined.

An autopsy confirmed that James Gilliland, 59, took his own life with a single shot fired from a semi-automatic handgun that was recovered with the body just after setting fire to the wood-framed structure. The house, which was completely destroyed by the fire, was owned by a couple from Nashville, Tennessee.

Investigators learned that Gilliland, who had been involved in a lease-purchase arrangement with the owners for a number of years, had informed them several months prior that he had lost his job and could no longer afford the payments. Over the course of those months leading up to the arson-suicide, Gilliland had negotiated the transfer of items of movable property, belonging to Gilliland, to the property owners in lieu of payments due. Those items, primarily consisting of home appliances, were also consumed by the flames.

Gilliland was expected to vacate the property by noon on the day of the fire.

The Louisiana State Police Crime Lab and the East Feliciana Parish Coroner's Office assisted in the investigation.

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